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Pakistan suspends air strikes after Taliban ceasefire

Islamabad : Pakistan Sunday announced it was suspending air strikes against the Taliban, a day after they announced a unilateral one-month ceasefire.

Air strikes on Taliban positions were launched last month in Waziristan and Khyber regions following militant attacks and a deadlock in the peace process. Military officials said the air strikes had killed dozens of militants.

“The government has decided to suspend air strikes after the Taliban’s unconditional ceasefire,” Xinhua quoted Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan as saying.

Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid, while announcing the ceasefire Saturday, had also called upon the government to give a positive response.

“We consider the Taliban decision to stop violent actions as a positive progress,” the interior minister said in a statement.

He, however, said the government and the army would have the right to respond to any incident of violence.

“The security forces had launched targeted strikes only in response to attacks,” Khan said, adding the government has not conducted any military operation after it has taken over in June last year.

Official sources said the decision was taken after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif discussed the issues with all stakeholders and party leaders.

The prime minister had started consultations about a response to the Taliban’s ceasefire late Saturday and the process continued Sunday. He also presided over a high-level meeting in Lahore Sunday to evolve consensus on the issue.

The prime minister was happy at the Taliban decision and was thinking of declaring a ceasefire on part of the government too, sources said.

The sources said the prime minister had asked Army Chief Gen. Rahil Sharif to stop attacks on militants and he might announce his decision soon.